Jonathan Toews walked into the Johnnys Ice House locker room with a smile on his face. Its been a long few weeks for the Blackhawks captain, who was coming back nicely, then had a setback, and now is hopefully recovering again from his concussion.
But hes not pegging a game for his return. Not again.
Im not going to do that again, he said with a grin. Obviously that didnt work out (last time).
No, it didnt. But Toews, after skating for the fifth consecutive day - and practicing with teammates for the first time in nearly two weeks -- is nevertheless feeling better. And hes feeling that this time he could be truly turning the corner towards recovery.
Toews is confident hell play this season.
It sucks its taken this long but I feel this is it, Toews said Saturday. Mentally Im positive and telling myself that Ill get through this. Im not going to let the setbacks that have happened (before) weigh me down.
Coach Joel Quenneville said Toews jumped into a couple drills there and looked fine. Theres progress there, so well keep working at it.
Toews was feeling good after skating four straight days in early March, so good that he was targeting the Blackhawks March 13 game vs. St. Louis as a potential return date. But he suffered a setback a day or two before that, and was once again on the shelf. Toews said he wouldnt feel right when he got up in the morning, or symptoms would hit him when he came to the rink, hoping to take the ice.
Ive gotta say its probably the most frustrating thing Ive been through, he said. I had those hopes and feelings that I was going to be ready not even a week into the recovery process. Here I am past a month, still waiting to see when its going to get better the way I was three weeks ago. When you wake up every single day thinking this will be the day youll break through and things are going to happen for you, and it turns out it isnt, its tough to keep going that way.
Toews will obviously keep playing the cautious game. Even when hes deemed 100 percent, he may take another day or two to fully prepare for game action again.
Id love to be playing as soon as I can and get a couple of those games under my belt. At the same time I want to make sure Im in game shape before I go into the game, he said. I dont want to go in feeling like I still need conditioning, still need to catch up. If youre a step slow you may take a hit or two you dont want to take.
Its been a long and frustrating road for Toews. Hes hoping this is the end of the rough part of it.
I feel like Im getting back to that stage where Im progressing and getting closer to feeling the right way, he said. It was a while ago when I felt pretty much the same way I do now. Im just staying positive and hoping theres a time Ill break through.